Vegan meatball platter

Vegan meatball platter

vegan meatball platter

Today’s recipe is a bit of a goodbye to one of my favourite late summer vegetables – aubergine, or eggplant, although I may be able to squeeze one more aubergine dish in before we part ways, as the season doesn’t truly finish until the end of October. I love the versatility of aubergine and its unique texture that lends itself to so many different preparation methods.

To my mind, aubergine’s infamous blandness is precisely its selling point as it takes on various flavours so readily. It’s no wonder that it’s such a popular vegetable in the cuisines of India, China, Middle East and Southern Europe. It’s delicious baked, slow-cooked, wok or pan-fried. It makes mean curries, bakes, casseroles, warm salads, dips, stir-fries and today I’ve roped it in to make some vegan meatballs.

Not only are they good for you as they contain no actual meat, but they are entirely made up of so-good-for-you wholefood plant foods that we should incorporate into our life daily. They are made of diabetes and hypertension-fighting legumes (chickpeas), omega-3 rich and breast cancer preventative flax, cancer-preventing aromatics and my beloved heart healthy eggplants. Not only that, they taste great too. Here, I paired them with with a few extra fixings for a bit of a vegan meatballs platter, but you can also have them more simply, with some green salad, grain or pasta. I garnished them with a Turkish-inspired spicy tomato and pepper relish, drizzled with creamy tahini sauce and served alongside some rustic pitta croutons for a bit of extra crunch and texture.

While I went vegan for the animals, I am forever astounded by how good this way of eating feels and how beneficial it is for our bodies, long term. I often listen to the leading plant-based doctors’ talks when I work and I never cease to be amazed at how perfect the world of plants is and how tapping into that potential could save us (and billions of animals) from so much needless suffering. While I’m not one of these people who think that we can dispense with Western medicine altogether and simply eat plants and meditate instead, I am a big proponent of them both, working in unison and not against each other.

vegan meatball platter ingredients

vegan meatball platter raw cooked

vegan meatball platter fried

vegan meatball platter

makes
30
PREP
30 min
COOKING
60 min
makes
30
PREPARATION
30 min
COOKING
60 min
INGREDIENTS
VEGAN MEATBALLS

  • 500 g / 17½ (2 medium) eggplants / aubergines
  • 300 g / 2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 1 small red onion, finely grated or super finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 4 tsp Za’atar
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • ¾ tsp fine sea salt, more to taste
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp ground fennel
  • a big handful of fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp ground flax seeds or chia seeds
  • 40 g-60 g / ¾-1 cup coarse / panko breadcrumbs (GF breadcrumbs or fine oat if gluten-free)
  • oil for baking / sautéing

SPICY TOMATO RELISH

  • 30 baby plum tomatoes*
  • 1 red Romano pepper
  • a small handful of fresh parsley
  • ¼-½ red onion (I used ¼ for milder flavour)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • pul biber (spicy Turkish pepper flakes), to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste

TAHINI DRIZZLE

FRIED BREAD / PITTA

METHOD
  1. Heat up the oven to 200° C / 390° F and grab an old-fashioned (ideally steel, not teflon-coated) baking tray.
  2. Cut your aubergines / eggplants into 1.25 cm / ½” rounds and arrange them on the baking tray. There is no need to grease them. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, flipping the slices to the other side halfway through. They are done when soft all the way though and lightly browned on both sides.
  3. Put chickpeas in a food processor and process until coarsely ground. Be careful not to overprocess as you do want your meatballs to have a bit of texture and that is why I recommend grinding chickpeas separately from the rest of the ingredients. Transfer the chickpeas out of the food processor and set aside.
  4. Place baked eggplants and all the remaining meatballs ingredients, apart from the breadcrumbs and oil, in the food processor and process until smooth. I recommend grating the garlic and onion beforehand as you want their flavour evenly distributed throughout the meatball mixture.
  5. Transfer the mixture into a large mixing bowl, add ground chickpeas and mix well. Add enough breadcrumbs to absorb excess moisture and to give the meatballs better texture. If you intend to bake your meatballs rather than fry them you can leave the mixture a little bit wetter as the oven will dry the meatballs out a little. Chill for 1-2 hours in the fridge before forming the meatballs.
  6. Once chilled, form the mixture into same size meatballs (mine were 21 g / ¾ oz each). You can either bake them or fry them.
  7. To bake, preheat the oven to 180° C / 355° F. Brush a little bit of oil under each meatball and brush the tops with a little oil also. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, flipping them once halfway through. They are likely to stick to the tray so use a flat spatula to gently prise them off first.
  8. To fry, preheat a heavy skillet or pan, cover the bottom of the skillet with oil (about 2 tbsp). Allow the oil to heat up and then arrange the meatballs (it’s important not to overcrowd the pan so you may need to do it in 2 batches) on the skillet in a clockwise order. Give them a little bit of time to seal and then turn them gently, keep on turning until they are cooked all over, arrange on a clean paper towel to absorb the excess oil.
  9. Arrange fried bread and meatballs on a platter, garnish with spicy relish and drizzle with tahini sauce. Consume immediately.

SPICY TOMATO RELISH

  1. Chop the first four ingredients into a very tiny dice, the smaller the better. You may be tempted to use a food processor, but it will make this relish too soggy so I don’t recommend it.
  2. Place all of the chopped ingredients in a bowl. Stir olive oil and pomegranate molasses through it, season with garlic, pul biber, salt and pepper.

TAHINI DRIZZLE

  1. Loosen tahini up with 2 tbsp of water. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper and a dash of sweetener (if desired).

FRIED BREAD / PITTA

  1. Tear the bread / pitta into smaller chunks (I used a day old Turkish pitta, which I sliced into two widthwise).
  2. Heat up a large pan on a low heat. Add 1-2 tbsp of oil, allow it to heat up. Once hot, stir in torn bread. Stir it continuously to avoid burning. Toast until golden and crunchy. Season with salt flakes and remove from the pan.

NOTES
*If using large tomatoes, you may want to deseed them first.

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NUTRITIONAL INFO
calories
445
22%
sugars
16 g
18%
fats
21 g
29%
saturates
3 g
14%
proteins
14 g
29%
carbs
55 g
21%
*per serving
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5.0
4 reviews, 10 comments
REVIEWS & QUESTIONS
Susan Wright:
there is only two of us and I don't know how to make it smaller can you help
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Susan,You can simply divide all the ingredients in half and make half a portion but if I were you I would simply just make the entire recipe and have it for two meals in a row and have a night of cooking :) x Ania
Jedidjah:
Really loved this! I kind of messed it up but it was still a winner in my eyes! I accidentally made them too big, so they didn't really dry out during frying so they were a little mushy. Also forgot to buy pomegranate molasses so I just left it out. But it still was very delicious! Will definitely make again and I will adhere to the recipe better so that they will turn out perfect! Can't wait. Definitely loved the flavour combinations, such a unique and creative dish! Thank you :)
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thanks so much, Jedidjah! I'm delighted to hear that you enjoyed these and plan to make again! Thank you for returning to leave this lovely review - I really appreciate it! x Ania
Rae:
What veg would work instead of aubergine. Season is over
    Ania
    Ania:
    Hi Rae,Aubergine season doesn't end until the end of October in the UK according to my research, and I still see plenty of them in shops here in Bristol, but you could of course swap it out for say mushrooms? They will work just as well. Hope this helps! Ania
Erin:
This was OUTSTANDING!!!! I was invited to dinner at a friend's house and I brought this for an appetizer. Everyone raved about how great it was and the 4 of us devoured all but a tiny bit of it. Absolutely fantastic!!!!
    Ania
    Ania:
    Thanks so much for your kind words, Erin. I'm so happy to hear that it went down so well with you and your friends. Ania
Yvette McPhail:
Looks phenomenal and cannot wait to try. I'm still getting used to the chickpeas in recipes so not sure if canned will do?
    Ania
    Ania:
    Absolutely, canned are fine. Hope you'll enjoy these, Yvette. Ania
Bianca Sherratt:
Looks amazing! Always look forward to your recipies.
    Ania
    Ania:
    Aw, thanks so much, Bianca. That's so nice to hear! I hope you'll enjoy this one too if you decide to try. Ania
Denise pias:
Yummy! Wow! What a treat. My boyfriend said I didn’t stop saying how amazing the dinner was while I was eating; not even realizing it! I did throw in two leftover grilled beyond sausages into the eggplant mixture while making the meatballs. Made both your sauces - subbed some berry basaltic glaze for the pomegranate molasses. : served with some homemade spicy tapenade and tablule. The meatballs wrapped in the pita bread topped with the sides was an absolute delight and very filling. Look forward to the leftovers! Thanks for the recipe!
    Ania
    Ania:
    That's so nice to hear, Denise! I'm delighted to hear that you and your boyfriend enjoyed these so much. And thanks for taking the time to review - much appreciated. Ania
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